Every year during the holidays, I write a letter to our employees. No matter how much our family business grows in terms of its employees, we always maintain the spirit and closeness of a family business. This past holiday I chose to share my story and give a message that is very close to my heart. Some are aware of my journey, others were not. I did not send it hoping for accolades, but rather to remind people that we are all human. This disease does not discriminate. If I touched one person out of 200, I am living my dream. Xo
I have mentioned in the past my admiration of Oprah Winfrey. I spoke about it in a past Christmas letter reflecting on my attendance at her “Live your Best Life” tour. Unfortunately I didn’t walk away applying all that I thought I had learned from her. No matter how many words may have slipped through the cracks, I continue my devotion to her by purchasing her magazine monthly only to read the last page titled “What I know for Sure”. For some reason this page always centers me, motivated me, and speaks to me. Sometimes in a whisper, sometimes a thump on the head. This month she spoke about how we, the world, is saturated in negativity. She said… WE. ARE. IN. TROUBLE. This world today is far worse than it’s ever been and we need to come together. Come together with respect. Stop the hatred, the blaming. I love her line…With hatred, no side wins. In the end we all lose. Hate is potent, but so is kindness. And goodness, and grace. Use yours generously.
On December 27th I will be celebrating my anniversary for one year sober. A true gift that didn’t seem like much of a gift in the beginning. In addiction, we all come in different packages. My package is Sober, not ashamed. Others with this unfortunate disease choose to hold it closer to their heart, some choose to remain anonymous. I never judge the path people take, I just know mine works for me. The silver lining in my journey has been the gift of service. The gift of being able to be sober and help others win in the tough fight of sobriety. I now go to a Prison and speak every other week. Not because I don’t know what to do with myself after a long day and long commute, but because I want to make a difference. I sit there amongst 30-40 inmates, tell my story and give them a “voice” they so desperately want to have. I give them hope and help them figure out the path they need to take when they get out – and most importantly, assure them that they don’t have to walk it alone. There are some who are so angry that they can’t even talk, others who are so grateful that they are given a second change, but they are all scared to death that they may not end up having the life they thought for sure they were deserving of. Last week a woman spoke up and said that she was missing Christmas with her kids, missing the decorations, being with family. She said there is only one window there, and out that window there is a little strip of grass and a sliver of the sky. She never realized how much she appreciated nature until it was taken from her sight. I told her to think of that little sliver of light and blue skies when she gets out. Maybe in a moment of a potential bad decision that visual will act as a whisper and keep her from returning.
The bottom line is that we all need each other. Without support, life’s challenges can be too overwhelming. They become so much bigger than ourselves that we give in, give up. I know that feeling. Do not underestimate the power you have over anyone. I leave the prison every time praying that maybe just maybe, my message got through to just ONE person, ONE life. We all have our own cross to bear, our own pain, our own struggles. We lose relationships, marriages, friendships, worry about finances, our futures, sick loved ones, and grieve over loved ones that pass. And when it all seems like too much – the answer is right next to you. A stranger, a friend, a loved one – someone who understands. Someone that doesn’t judge you, that cares unconditionally. Service comes in all different sizes - find the size that fits you.
What I know for sure this year is that despite life’s road blocks and detours, I have never been happier. Not because I have all that I want, but because what I do have is the greatest blessing of all. Gifts are abundant if you choose to look at them instead of only seeing what you don’t have. This season – give yourself to those who need you. Let someone know you care. The rewards are endless.